In a collaborative effort between experiment and theory we are working on the conversion of CO and CO2 to methanol and higher alcohols with the aim of reducing global CO2 emissions by producing important feedstock chemicals as well as transportation fuels from renewable sources. Gasification of biomass or carbon capture from power and steel plants in combination with water splitting (link to our H2 work here) using solar energy can serve as renewable synthesis gas (a mixture of CO, CO2 and H) sources.
Understanding catalysts and designing new catalytic systems is the focus of our work at SUNCAT. Using a combination of DFT and micro-kinetic modeling we improve our understanding of structure dependency of transition metals and develop models for metal oxides promotion on transition metal surfaces. The experimental research focuses on the design, synthesis, catalytic testing, and materials characterization of novel catalysts with an emphasis on gaining theoretical insight into reaction mechanisms. In the labs, catalytic testing in small-scale plug flow reactors capable of operating at high temperatures and pressures are performed. Catalyst characterization is performed through traditional ex-situ techniques as well as novel synchrotron studies. Operando and in-situ spectroscopy techniques at SSRL are utilized to study catalysts under realistic operating conditions. Using our experimental capabilities at Stanford, SLAC and SSRL along with a strong theoretical support from our collaborators in SUNCAT we strive to develop an understanding of how a catalyst’s electronic and chemical structure governs its selectivity and activity.